UConn coach Kevin Ollie often describes games in terms of heavyweight fights. His first NCAA Tournament game perhaps proved to be closer to that metaphor than any that came before. UConn was out-maneuvered most of the first half by St. Joseph's sophisticated offense, but tightened up in the second half. And as the game broke down to a battle of will and endurance, the Huskies had it in them to deliver the last blow. Grappling from behind to force overtime, where Shabazz Napier scored the last of his 24 hard-earned points, UConn outlasted St. Joe's 89-81 Thursday night to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament at First Niagara Center. The Huskies (27-8), seeded seventh in the East Regional, play the winner of Villanova-Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Buffalo on Saturday. DeAndre Daniels scored 18 points, Ryan Boatright 17 and Amida Brimah nine – including the three most important to help force the OT – for UConn, which did not take a lead of more than two points during regulation. The Huskies were down by 10 in the first half and after briefly taking the lead midway through the second half were down five with less than five minutes to go. Napier drove the lane and scored on a spectacular move, then DeAndre Daniels (18 points) blocked a shot and hit a three-pointer on the other end to put the Huskies back on top 67-66 with 2:08 to play. Chris Wilson responded for the Hawks with a lay-in. And the Huskies turned it over with 1:13 to go. Wilson drew a foul and hit two crucial free throws with 49.2 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Brimah, playing with four fouls, gave UConn life with an offensive rebound, put-back and a free throw to tie it at 70. UConn's defense was effective, forcing a shot-clock violation. With 1.9 seconds left, the Huskies worked it up the court for Napier, who got off a three, but hit it the rim and the game went to OT. Both teams were in foul trouble, but St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli had hardly gone to his bench during regulation. When his best big man, Halil Kanacevic (12 points, seven rebounds, five assists), fouled out early in OT, the Hawks would be at a disadvantage. Daniels completed a three-point play on Kanacevic's fifth foul to give UConn a 73-70 lead – the Huskies' biggest lead of the night to that point. But Langston Galloway (25 points) answered with a three to tie it. Brimah and Napier each made two free throws, though, and UConn led by four with 2:12 to play. UConn hit 15 free throws in a row late in regulation and in overtime. St. Joe's went cold from the field, and the Huskies at last took control, Napier completing a three-point play to make it 80-73.
UConn Storms Back, Beats St. Joseph's 89-81 In Overtime Thriller
Hartford Courant | Mar 20